Most Common Problems in Quoting and MLA

Last updated 1/7/19 11:42am
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Quotations & Punctuations

1. Problem: Placing the comma or period outside the closing quote.

Error: Smith said, “Life is beautiful“.
Correction: Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
Error: “Life is beautiful“, said Smith.
Correction: “Life is beautiful,” said Smith.

2. Problem: Omitting a comma between the tag and the quote.

Error: Smith said “Life is beautiful.”
Correction: Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
Error: “Life is beautiful” said Smith.
Correction: “Life is beautiful,” said Smith.
Exception: Smith said that “life is beautiful.”1

3. Problem: Failure to capitalize the first word in a quote that is meant to stand alone as a complete sentence.

Error: Smith said, “life is beautiful.”
Correction: Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
Exception: Smith said that “life is beautiful.”
Error: Smith replied, “good.”
Correction: Smith replied, “Good.”

4. Problem: Ending a quote with two or more punctuations.

Error: Smith asked, “Is life beautiful?”.
Correction: Smith asked, “Is life beautiful?”
Error: “Is life beautiful?”, asked Smith.
Correction: “Is life beautiful?” asked Smith.

5. Problem: Capitalizing the tag after a quote.

Error: “Is life beautiful?” Asked Smith.
Correction: “Is life beautiful?” asked Smith.

6. Problem: Using single quotes incorrectly.

Error: Smith said, “The word life is beautiful.”
Correction: Smith said, “The word life is beautiful.”
Error: Smith said that “life is ‘beautiful‘.”
Correction: Smith said that “life is ‘beautiful.'”

MLA (See MLA Guides)

7. Problem: Period error in a quote with a parenthetical reference.

Error: I believe that “life can be beautiful if you make it so.” (Smith).
Correction: I believe that “life can be beautiful if you make it so” (Smith).

8. Problem: Redundant tagging. Don’t repeat the author’s name in the parenthetical reference when it is mentioned in the tag. (See the guidelines for MLA parenthetical references.)

Error: Smith said, “Life is beautiful” (Smith).
Correction 1: Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
Correction 2: “Life is Beautiful” (Smith).

9. Problem: Orphaned quote or reference. An orphaned quote is a direct or indirect quote in a paper without a reference in the list of works cited. An orphaned reference is a reference in a list of works cited that is not linked to a quote in the paper. Every quote in a paper must be linked, via parenthetical reference or tag, to an item in the list of works cited. Also, every item in the list of works cited must be linked to a quote in the paper. (See MLA works cited guidelines.)

[In the paper:] Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
[Alternate:] “Life is beautiful” (Smith).

[In the list of Works Cited:] Smith, John. Beauty Is. Putnam: NY, 2001.

10. Problem: Unnecessary bibliographic information in the body of the paper, especially when it’s included in the works-cited section.

Error: In his book Beauty Is, John Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
Correction 1: Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
Correction 2: “Life is beautiful” (Smith).

11. Problem: Using an author’s first name only. When quoting classmates, consider them authors. Use both first and last name or, preferably, last name only when referring to sources in the text of your paper.

Error: John said, “Life is beautiful”.
Correction 1: Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”
Correction 2: John Smith said, “Life is beautiful.”

12. Problem: Incorrect header for the list of works cited.

Error: Works cited
Error: Works Cited List
Error: List of Works Cited
Error: References
Error: Works Cited
Error: “Works Cited”
Error: Works Cited
Error: Works Cited
Correction: Works Cited
Exception: Work Cited [when the list is limited to a single reference].

To confirm that you’ve read this list of problems, email me at jamess@hawaii.edu by the deadline for submitting the FD1. The subject header must include the word “common.” This test is for our first paper only.

13. Alphabetically list the items in the works-cited section. If a number begins a title, alphabetize it according to its written form.

Error:

“9 Secrets for Better Living.” Psychology Online, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 18 May 2017.

Smith, John. “My Thoughts on Life.” Journal of Life, 5 May 2017. Web. 19 May 2017.

Ching, Mary. “Beauty Is a Strong Feeling.” Laulima Discussion, University of Hawai’i, 10 May 2017. Web. 19 May 2017.

Correction:

Ching, Mary. “Beauty Is a Strong Feeling.” Laulima Discussion, University of Hawai’i, 10 May 2017. Web. 19 May 2017.

“9 Secrets for Better Living.” Psychology Online, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 18 May 2017.

Smith, John. “My Thoughts on Life.” Journal of Life, 5 May 2017. Web. 19 May 2017.

__________
1 When an embedded quote (a quote incorporated in your own sentence) is preceded by the word that, omit the comma and don’t capitalize the first word of the quote unless it’s a proper noun or adjective. (A proper noun is a word that refers to a specific person, place, or organization: Duke Kahanamoku, Stan Sheriff Center, Office of Hawaiian Affairs. A proper adjective originates from a proper noun: Hawaiian quilt, Shakespearean drama.)

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